A Little Uncalculated Weirdness

Chapter 4

Contents

Chapter 4

Buffy was in her element. She had made very short work of the first two vampires she came across. The first had fallen victim to a high kick, landing, with remarkable lack of foresight, on top of a fence of long wooden stakes. His companion had put up no more impressive a fight, and had collapsed in the face of a wicked combination of punches which had floored Giles more than once during practice sessions. Buffy staked him, a cheerful grin on her face. This was really quite exhilarating. These vampires moved faster than the ones in Sunnydale, that was for sure, but she had so far seen no evidence of their supposed ability to fly.

“Come on out, vampires!” Stepping gingerly around the huge patches of green gunky stuff which had, as promised, burst forth from the bodies of the vampires as she killed them, Buffy scanned the skies, fully expecting to see a flock of the creatures descend from somewhere above her. Flock—was that the right word? What did one call a large group of vampires, anyway? Maybe she should ask Giles.

“Hey, how are you?” Buffy swung round, startled, and saw three figures moving towards her. They were all about her age, dressed in what she had come to recognise as pretty fashionable 1987 era gear. Two were boys, and the third was a girl. All looked normal. Buffy felt her sixth sense warn her of something, but it had been complaining ever since her arrival in Santa Carla, and she was beginning to ignore it.

“Who are you?” she asked, cautious and alert.

“My name’s Eric.” The lead figure stepped forwards, revealing himself to be a pleasant faced kid with curly brown hair. There was no evidence of demonic tendencies or lack of soul, and the warm, friendly grin was vaguely reminiscent of Michael. “These two are Rob and Carrie. Michael sent us to watch out for you.”

“I don’t need watching out for.” Vaguely insulted, Buffy wondered why her head was tingling. It was a peculiar sensation, rather as if her instincts were warning her to beware. If she spent much longer in this town she was going to start suspecting everybody of being a vampire.

“You don’t know Santa Carla.” Eric grinned again, looking utterly charming and completely trustworthy. “Things are pretty wild around here.” He held up a bottle of some red liquid. “Have a drink. It’ll help you keep your strength up.”

“My strength is fine.” She remembered some instruction of Giles’, about not drinking whilst on duty, or preferably at any other time either. “What is it?”

“Local brew.” Rob was grinning as well. “Here, look.” He took the bottle, and threw back a shot of whatever was inside. “Tastes real good. Keeps you warm, plus it’s got garlic in it. Helps to fight off the vampires.”

“Really?” Buffy took the bottle, vague suspicions still haunting her mind. She thought about the two vampires she had just killed. With their insanely bright eyes, and long white teeth, they had had the appearance of wild animals. These three, in contrast, had friendly faces and gentle eyes. “Do you make it?”

“Not exactly.” Carrie smiled at her. “Drink it. It tastes good. It’ll make you feel so much better.”

Buffy raised the bottle to her lips. The liquid certainly did smell good, and not at all alcoholic. She paused.

“What do you call it?” she asked. Eric laughed.

“We call it blood,” he told her, his voice tinged with amusement. His two companions laughed, and Buffy smiled too, beginning to relax a little. She rather liked these three, with their happy eyes and their jokes. Michael and his friends were so uptight; so unable to laugh at the situation they had found themselves in. She tipped back the bottle, and took a mouthful.

The liquid tasted nice. It was refreshing and warm. Her instincts were immediately dulled, and she found that a blessed relief. How was she expected to work when her mind was telling her that there were vampires behind every tree? Her head felt light, and she wobbled slightly, then felt the drink begin to warm her up from the inside. It was a wonderful feeling, and she took another mouthful, delighting in the flavour, and the buzz that the liquid gave her.

“Cool.” She handed the bottle back to Eric, who took a drink himself.

“Feels good, right?” he asked, and she nodded.

“Yeah. Feels really good.” She felt her legs wobble slightly. “I must be tired. I think I’d better be getting back to the others.”

“Sure.” Eric grinned. “You know the way back, right?”

“Right. Will I see you around?” She did not seem able to focus on him properly, but she still thought that she could see him smile.

“Sure you will. You’ll be seeing a lot of me.” He clapped her on the shoulder. “Have a good trip, Buffy.”

“Bye.” She stumbled on past the three, losing sight of them almost immediately. The world stretched out around her, and she was almost certain that she was walking down Sunnydale’s main street. The ground felt odd beneath her feet, and she glanced down, only to discover that the ground was far below her, and she seemed to be walking on thin air.

“Hey!” Suddenly afraid, Buffy reached out for what she thought was a passing aeroplane, but turned out to be a tree branch. She was on the road, heading for Michael’s place. Her confused mind caught hold of the most acceptable reality and held onto it, as she struggled to walk onwards. How had she come to be so tired? The grass and the trees around her seemed to have become a lurid shade of orange, and the road was decorated in shades of purple. Her mind rebelled against the colour scheme, but she didn’t seem able to claw her way back to a more sensible world.

“Oh boy.” Staggering gamely on, Buffy thought she saw a flock of bats circling about above her. She put up her hands to try and fend them off, but all at once they were eagles, their talons clawing at her hands as she tried to fight her way through them. She gasped, seeing the eagles explode into drops of blood which rained down on her. She began to run. She had to find Michael. The world would begin to make sense again, once she was amongst friends. It had to. She ran faster and faster, sometimes along the road, and sometimes apparently through the air, her heart beating faster than it had ever done before. It was all so weird, so confusing. In all of her life she didn’t think she had ever felt so lost.


“Buffy!” Michael, standing by the window, saw the Slayer before any of his companions. Even so, he was unable to reach the door before Giles, who moved as though in training for the one hundred metres sprint. He threw his arms around the girl, then pulled back as if embarrassed.

“Are you okay?” he asked her. She blinked up at him, and frowned.

“Giles?”

“Who else?” He grinned. “Did you think I’d leave you to have all the fun? I found some writings which suggested that this might be where you’d gone.”

“Always the Watcher…” Buffy sounded confused. “Giles… I think something’s wrong.”

“In what way?” Instantly alert, the Englishman held her at arms length, studying her eyes. “You look a little out of focus. Tired?”

“No, I don’t think so.” She frowned, the lines on her forehead cutting deep grooves in the skin. “You… look weird. Sort of… green.”

“Green?” His expressive eyebrows raised. “A pleasant shade, I hope.”

“Don’t joke, Giles… I have a really bad feeling of… nastiness.”

“Your Slayer instincts? That’s only to be expected in a place like Santa Carla.” He put his arm around her shoulders and began to lead her towards the house. “Take it easy, and everything will be fine.”

“No it won’t!” She pulled away from him, using rather more of her strength than was entirely necessary. Her legs were starting to give way, and it was a most unpleasant sensation. “Don’t you understand, Giles! I’m not talking about my Slayer instincts, I’m talking about… about something else. My eyes… everything looks different. I feel different.” She glanced about. “They’re out there, aren’t they. Laughing at us.”

“Yes, perhaps we had better get inside.” Giles headed for the house once again. Michael and the others were standing by the door, watching the exchange with interest. “Come on, Buffy. Your new friends are looking worried.”

“New friends?” She glanced up, and her eyes flashed in sudden, surprising hatred. “They’re not my friends. Eric is my friend. Eric and Carrie, and…” She frowned. “Who are Eric and Carrie?”

“I don’t know.” He caught her by the hand. “C-c-come on inside, Buffy, please. I’ll, I’ll take a l-look at you in there, where there’s more light. You might have been hurt b-by something.”

“Might have been.” She grinned. “I got two of them Giles. You should have seen it. They sprayed green gunk everywhere, just like Michael said they would. Green gunk and blood.”

“Delightful, I’m sure.” They reached the veranda surrounding the dilapidated little house, and the Watcher led Buffy in through the door. “Okay, how about going into the sitting room and relaxing for a bit. Somebody will get you a drink.”

“Holy water,” Edgar muttered under his breath. Giles scowled at him, but the boy did not flinch. “Hey, it’s the rules. Every newbie has to take a shot.”

“She had some earlier, Edgar.” Michael pushed past the others, and put his hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “Hey, are you okay? You look a little flushed.”

“I’m fine…” She pulled away suddenly. “Get off me!”

“Hey, okay!” He backed off, then frowned at her, his face showing sudden concern. “What happened to you, Buffy? Did one of them hurt you?”

“I handled them.” She sounded wary and defensive, voice thick. “I can handle all of you, too. Keep away from me.”

“Buffy…” Giles stepped towards her, but she whirled around, going immediately into an attack posture. He moved aside, recognising the position only too well. She had used it on him more than once during practice, and here he had no mats to land on. “What’s got into you!”

“Enlightenment!” Her voice was suddenly low and venomous, her eyes sparking wildly. “Come a little closer, Watcher… Just a little closer, and we’ll see what your blood tastes like!”

“Look!” Sam, standing a short distance away from the others, shouted out in sudden amazement. “Her reflection—in the hall mirror!” The others, including Buffy, spun to look at the glass. Alan Frog, standing behind the Slayer, was clearly visible through her almost entirely translucent image.

“Oh no…” The Slayer took a step back, her hand flying to her face as she stared at her reflection. “Help me, Giles…”

“Buffy…” His voice no more than a whisper, Giles took a horrified step forward, only to be brought up short by Edgar’s determined intervention. The belligerent youth caught the Watcher’s arm, pulling him back with a sharp, violent motion.

“Keep away from her, man! She’s one of them!”

“Take your hand off me.” Giles’ voice was so cold that Edgar released him through pure shock alone. He took a step back, watching as the tall Englishman went straight to his Slayer’s side. She was still gazing at her insubstantial image in the mirror, mouthing silent words to herself.

“Buffy? Can you remember anything? Can you tell me what happened?” His voice gentle, Giles tried to step between the girl and the mirror, trying to prevent her from becoming even more upset than she already was. “Can you hear me, Buffy?”

“I can hear you.” She sounded as though she were speaking from far away. “They gave me a drink. They were so nice…”

“A drink. What drink?” The gentility in the Watcher’s voice had become urgency, and she glanced towards him.

“I don’t know. It was red… Tasted good.”

“Blood.” Michael spoke from a few feet away, where he stood leaning against the door frame. “They always seem nice. Nice or exciting. They have powers like you wouldn’t believe, Giles. I mean, I’ve read about vampires, and the ones round here are nothing like in the books. They can suggest things, put things into your mind, so that you trust them. I remember it.”

“Blood? She drank blood without realising it?” Giles was confused, his concern clouding his mind. “That, that’s not possible. The, the taste…”

“Believe me, it’s possible. It happened to me. You drink the stuff, you get a real buzz from it and it tastes real good. Then the madness hits you. Hallucinations, totally weird stuff. Some of it is real, but you can’t tell how much. Then the cravings start…” His voice had become a loud whisper, and Giles saw the wild gleam in the boy’s eyes, which so closely mirrored the look on Buffy’s face. “We have to help her, before it’s too late.”

“Help her? Are you nuts? We stake her, and that’s all there is to it. She’s one of them now, Michael.” Edgar drew a stake from his belt, stepping purposefully towards Buffy. She did not try to move away.

“Leave her alone!” Giles reacted more with outrage than with anger, motivated by sheer disbelief. Edgar glanced towards him, scornful of the other’s opinions.

“She’s a vampire. A bloodsucking creep, just like all those other creeps out there. We’re not safe with her here. Any minute now she could decide to take a bite, and then where’d we be? We have got to get rid of her.”

“No!” Michael sounded pained. “Edgar, you gave me a chance. Please… She hasn’t taken a drink yet. We can still save her.”

“We don’t know what she was doing out there. She might have bitten any number of people.” The tall boy raised his stake again, this time finding Giles firmly planted in his way. “Move it, Giles man. I don’t wanna stake you too. You could be useful.”

“Leave her alone.” Giles grabbed the boy’s wrist, turning it sharply so that Edgar yelped in pain, and dropped the stake onto the floor. “Now go and do your homework or something. Got it?”

“He’s one of them too.” Eyes bright with suspicion, Edgar grabbed another stake from his belt. “Look at the way he’s protecting her. He’s probably the head vampire!”

“Giles!” Buffy pushed forward, speaking clearly again. She looked up at the Watcher, her face showing a full range of emotions. “Please. Don’t stop him. He’s right.”

“Right?! He wants to kill you!” Giles tried to push her back behind him, but she resisted.

“No, Giles. I don’t have a reflection. You know what that means. I won’t be a vampire, Giles. I won’t turn into what I’m supposed to fight. What if I hurt you? What if I couldn’t control myself? Remember Angel…” She shuddered. “Please, let him do it. It’s better this way.”

“No.” There was cold vehemence in the Watcher’s voice. “It, it’s m-my job to protect you, Buffy, and that doesn’t mean st-standing aside and watching you die.” He turned on Edgar. “You, you make one m-move towards her, and you’ll have, have me to deal with, understand? And believe me, I’m a lot more capable of the rough stuff than people might be inclined to believe. Do you understand?”

“Y-yeah.” Edgar blinked. The transformation that he had just witnessed was off-putting to say the least. He had assumed that Giles was the intellectual type, absent-minded and slow, but it appeared that there was a lot more to the man than was immediately evident.

“Good.” Giles turned to Michael. “Now what were you saying? About something that happened to you?”

“Yeah…” Michael was still staring at Buffy, his face showing confusion. “I met this gang of bikers on the beach, when Sam and me first moved here a few months back. They gave me something to drink, and it turned out it was blood. I started seeing things that weren’t there, imagining all kinds of things. I started… craving. Wanting blood. I don’t know for sure how long it lasted. Several days. Maybe weeks. Some nights I grew fangs, and I wasn’t sure if I could resist… Sam pulled me through.”

“Sure.” Sam looked oddly cheerful amongst the group of more serious minded people. “See, if they try to convert you, you’re just a half-vampire until you take your first victim, and if you can kill the head vampire, you go back to normal. All we had to do to fix Mikey was to kill the head of the vampire clan he’d been inducted into.”

“That’s all?” Giles sounded doubtful, but his spirits were rising. “Well then, we have to kill the head vampire. Buffy will go back to normal, and we can get back to sorting this gate out.”

“Gate first.” Buffy sounded as though she were having to fight to get the words out. Giles swung round.

“Buffy, we have to-”

“Gate first.” She frowned up at him. “Giles, you’ve heard how powerful these vampires are. What would happen if they got into Sunnydale? Think of it… I can wait. I’ll be okay…”

“But…” His voice trailed off as he looked down into her face. “Alright Buffy. You’re the Slayer.” He looked up at Michael. “Will, will there be any long, long-term effects, if we don’t help her immediately?”

“I don’t know.” The young man shrugged. “I… I get a little weird sometimes. I go out at night, and I can’t sleep. The daylight hurts my eyes more than it used to.” He smiled slightly. “Some nights I wake up floating on the ceiling. I guess you could call them after effects, yeah. But I was a vampire for some time. That probably makes a difference.” He frowned. “Look, I want to help Buffy as well, Giles, but there’s something you’ve got to understand. The vampires here are super-powerful, sure, but they have limitations. They can’t leave Santa Carla. There’s like some sort of spell on this town, and the vampires can’t get out. If they make use of the gate, they’ll be free of that, and they’ll be able to go wherever they want. It won’t just be Sunnydale you have to care about, it’ll be the whole damn world. They could take over. No-one would be safe.” He stared at Buffy for a short, painful moment. “We have to fix the gate first.”

“Yes. Of course.” Giles tried to set his thought into order. He knew only too well how dangerous it was not to try to help Buffy immediately. He had seen how hard it had been for Angel to fight the need to feed, and for Buffy, who was inexperienced in such things, it would be even harder. They could lose her, and worse; she could hurt one of them. Even so, there were other things that might have to be more important.

“How do we deal with the gate?” Alan Frog, stake in one hand, cross in the other, was still staring uncertainly at Buffy. “I mean… It’s like, some kind of cosmic thing, right? How do we deal with that?” Everybody turned to look at Giles.

“I don’t know.” He sounded defensive. “All I know is that tomorrow night is the last night it’s open, and that’s when the vampires can travel through it. Perhaps we could stand guard on the beach, and stop them going through?”

“No chance.” Edgar shook his head. “There’s too many of them. They’d all want to go through, and you’re talking maybe two, three thousand. We’d be dog food.”

“Sure, and we don’t even know if the beach is the right place to go. Buffy said that she went through Mark Hutten’s gravestone. Just ‘cause you guys landed on the beach might not mean that’s where the gate is.” Michael shook his head. “We’ve got to come up with something better than that.”

“We could kill them all.” Giles glanced at the stake in Edgar’s hand. “You must know where they sleep during the day.”

“Nope. We’ve killed all the ones we could find.” Alan looked glum. “Anyway, not all of them do sleep during the day. Some of them are okay with daylight. These are not your ordinary vamps here, Giles. We are not dealing with Count Dracula.”

“Fine.” Giles turned away, beginning to pace restlessly. He felt trapped, stuck in this house with a town full of vampires outside, apparently unstoppable. If there was one thing that Giles hated most of all, it was the sensation of being hemmed in, caught like a rat in a trap. “There’s got to be something.”

“There’s nothing you can do.” Buffy laughed, the sudden sound making them all turn towards her. “Nothing at all. Except die.” She grinned, the long, shiny points of her teeth gleaming as they caught the light. “Which of you will be first?”

“Buffy!” Shocked beyond rational thought, Giles stepped towards her, and she swung around to face him, eyes bright with insane light.

“Ah yes. The Watcher.” Her grin grew bigger, the fangs seeming to grow with her amusement. “Who could be a better first victim?”

“Get back, Giles!” Edgar leapt forward, stake raised, and Giles, horrified, knocked him aside. His movements took him within Buffy’s reach and she grabbed his shoulder, spinning her about to face him, her mouth opening wide. He blanched, unable to properly comprehend his danger as his concern overrode all other thoughts, and she laughed, pulling him closer. Her grip tightened, and as he finally realised the danger that he was in, he pulled back slightly. His collar began to tear, and in a sudden ripping of cloth, the cross around his neck swung loose. With a strangled scream, Buffy pushed him away, and he stumbled back. The girl, her hands flung up in front of her eyes, staggered against the wall, gasping for breath.

“Get it away! Get it away!” Her voice became less angry, more like the sobs of a frightened high school girl. The image of madness was gone, and in its place was Buffy, afraid and upset.

“Giles…?” She glanced up, surprised to see him lying sprawled on his back on the floor. “What happened?” Her voice was so small, so desperate, that his heart went out to her immediately, and heedless of the possible danger he went instantly to her side.

“It’s okay, Buffy,” he whispered to her, putting his arms around her small shoulders. “It’s okay.”

“No it isn’t!” Outraged, and beginning to get extremely annoyed about the way that this newcomer kept pushing him about, Edgar stepped forwards again. “She’s a vampire! She just tried to suck your blood, man! We have got to kill her.”

“He’s right, Giles.” Buffy sounded so scared, that Giles instinctively tightened his grip on her.

“No he’s not.” His voice was low, dangerous even. “I-I-I-I’m sorry Buffy, and, and I understand your concerns, but I have to protect you. It doesn’t matter who or what you are, I’m still your Watcher.”

“I’ll release you.” She tried to pull out of his grip. “You can go back to being normal. Just let them kill me, Giles. Please. I can’t be a vampire.”

“Then fight it. Letting them kill you is like suicide, and that, that’s the cowards way out. I d-didn’t teach you to be a coward.”

“It’s not that simple, Giles!” Her face was pleading. “Listen to me… When I was little, I used to lie in bed at night, terrified. I was scared that one day I would die, and that there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was terrified about how, no matter what I did, one day I would get old, and then I would die. I’ve been scared of that all my life, and now I’ve just been given the chance of immortality. I don’t need to get old, Giles. I don’t need to be scared anymore. I’m not sure I can throw all that away. I’m not sure I can resist it. I understand… why all the people in Santa Carla have given in to the vampires. Eternal life… eternal youth… You have to let them kill me, Giles.”

The dark head bent over her for a second, and the Watcher felt his emotions whirl about, becoming hopelessly entangled. He understood what she was saying. He understood it perfectly. He thought about Ethan, and about Randall… Eyghon. That had all been about fear. Some crazy plan to try and achieve immortality, by whatever means. The mark of the demon suddenly seemed to burn on his skin, and he shivered. He understood alright, but that didn’t mean that he agreed.

“I’m sorry.” He stood up. “Nobody is going to kill Buffy. It’s nearly dawn, and there’s nothing she can do during the day. Right?” This last question was to Michael, who nodded.

“Yeah, right. Half-vampires aren’t very strong at all. They can’t do anything much during the day except sleep.”

“Good. Then you can put your stakes away and listen to me.” Giles swung around, staring at the little group. They were all so young, but he was getting very used to the idea of using children in the battle against the dark forces. Innocence meant nothing anymore. He doubted whether anybody in Santa Carla even had any. “You all know w-what we’re up against. A gate has opened up somewhere in this town which is going to allow your vampires to escape, and wreak all kinds of havoc all over the world.”

“The streets will scream…” Michael whispered softly, and Giles nodded grimly.

“We have to work together if we’re going to beat this. You need me, and you need Buffy, so, so you’re just going to have to live with her. Kill her, and you’re going to have to kill me too.”

“That can be arranged.” Edgar still looked belligerent, but there was a half-hearted element to his stance now.

“I don’t doubt it.” Giles sighed. “Look, we’ve wasted enough time. The Sun is starting to come up, and we have a lot of work to do today. We only have a few hours left.”

“He’s right.” Michael stepped forwards, and his brother followed suit.

“I’m with Michael.”

“Surprise, surprise.” Edgar sounded cynical, but showed no displeasure when Alan moved to stand alongside the others. “Okay, so we’re all agreed, but where does that get us?”

“Nowhere.” Giles smiled, feeling in control again. That was a start at least. “Somebody make some coffee, okay? Then we can sit down and try and come up with a few ideas.” He rubbed his chin, suddenly painfully aware, now that the immediate danger was over, that it was several days since he had last had a change of clothing or a shave. He had hardly slept, either, in three nights. No time to worry about that now. He tried not to yawn. “Oh, and by the way… I know you people aren’t terribly old, but does anybody have a razor?”

“A razor?” Although she sounded tired, there was humour in Buffy’s voice. “Somebody get him a razor. His mind stops working if he goes more than a day or two without a shave.” She smirked. “We need books, too. If he doesn’t get a fix at least once a day, he’ll go into withdrawal.”

“Very funny.” Giles allowed himself a brief smile. The sensation of being trapped had still not left him, but at least Buffy was starting to act more naturally. So long as she was going to be okay… There was still no certainty of that, of course, and the knowledge that he could still lose her preyed on his mind. To hell with the gate. To hell with Sunnydale, and its myriad of unsuspecting inhabitants. To hell with the rest of the world. It was Buffy that he was supposed to watch over. It was Buffy that he had to protect. He followed the others into the sitting room, the sound of their conversation only distantly reaching his ears. How could all those millions of anonymous strangers, none of whom had ever meant anything to him, possibly rate higher than the girl that his whole destiny was tied to? He was prepared to do what was necessary, and if these kids tried to get between him and his Slayer, he would do whatever he had to to stop them. He had killed before, and if Buffy’s life was at stake, he would kill again.